PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Reba McEntire: Greatest Hits Volume III: I'm a Survivor

Marshall Bowden

Reba Mcentire

Greatest Hits Volume III: I'm a Survivor

Label: MCA Nashville
US Release Date: 2001-10-23
Amazon
iTunes

Reba McEntire's third volume of Greatest Hits is just what her fans have come to expect. That there are three such collections in McEntire's discography is amazing, but not as amazing as the many other things country music's biggest female star has done -- books, television specials, acting roles, and a sitcom. What accounts for Reba's undying popularity, not only with hardcore country fans, but also with a wide segment of the general population?

Part of the answer comes with the mainstreaming of country music pioneered by Ms. McEntire and carried forward with great success by performers like Shania Twain and Faith Hill. None of these subsequent performers has managed to maintain the kind of credibility with a country audience that McEntire has, even though Reba's music is certainly just as touched by pop music production and arrangements as theirs. Part of the reason is no doubt the fact that Reba's been around for a long time and was doing country when it wasn't popular outside of Nashville. Then too, there's the mystique surrounding her ability to survive and push on after nearly her entire backing band was killed in a plane crash. "I'm a Survivor", the brand new song that kicks off Greatest Hits Volume III, rings truer coming from her than it would from the likes of Hill and Twain. Reba has survived not only personal tragedy but also any number of changes in the pop and country music landscapes, but each and every single she releases still manages to climb the charts, every album earns her further awards and accolades. McEntire is literally the Loretta Lynn of a generation of so of country music fans that have watched their music go from the bottom of the popular music genre heap to somewhere a few steps from the top.

Greatest Hits III covers McEntire's '90s output, from "Fallin' Out of Love" from the album Rumor Has It to 1998's collaboration with Brooks and Dunn, "If You See Him, If You See Her". The wealth of really good songs here demonstrates McEntire's ability to select from the pick of the Nashville songwriter's litter, with tunesmiths like Tommy Lee James, Sandy Knox, Walt Aldridge, Shelby Kennedy, Kim Carnes, and Kenny Rogers all represented here. Even the songs that are a bit on the overly dramatic or maudlin side are sold with conviction by Reba's warm, voice and epic delivery. Some may find McEntire's output too wrought with drama, but what the heck do you want from country music if not a little drama?

"I'm a Survivor" (the song) manages to combine the trials and tribulations of a premature baby and a single mom up in one ball of wax and still come out sounding like an anthem of personal victory -- no small feat. It is, of course, the theme from Reba's WB network show Reba. "Forever Love" from 1998's album If You See Him is a winning heartbreak ballad with a hook that you aren't going to find it easy to forget, while the 1994 track "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" is one of Reba's female empowerment anthems and demonstrates as well as any song how McEntire's managed to appeal to the pop side without abandoning her overall country sound and roots.

Another source of McEntire's appeal has to be the way her songs speak to and about the lives of modern women without becoming condescending or in any way judgmental. "She's checking out every man in the room right now / Don't go telling her about right or wrong / She's been alone for way too long" she sings on "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter", while on "The Fear of Being Alone" she squelches a paramour's temptation to try to make more of a one night stand than is really there without a trace of bitterness or irony. I'm sure there are those who would argue with McEntire's vision of female empowerment, but it's hard to argue when her audience, like that of the Dixie Chicks, is largely made up of women who feel that she speaks right to them.

Of course, she does occasionally deviate from this message, as her 1991 cover of the Vicki Lawrence hit "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" demonstrates. The Bobby Russell-penned song is one of a group of country "story" songs that earned near-mythical status due to its irresistible nature and somewhat mysterious lyrics (others of this ilk include Bobby Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe" and McEntire's own "Fancy") and her cover of it is great fun. When Reba sings "Little sister don't miss / When she aims her gun" it's not hard to imagine her as the gun-toting, adultery-avenging protagonist of the story.

Of the other new tracks on Greatest Hits III, "Myself Without You", another strong woman song about a newly single woman who "can even see myself / Falling in love with somebody else / Ready to take that chance again / Cause I know now / What I didn't know then / That the world still turns and the sun still burns / And that's what I've learned without you" is the best. It fits in with the rest of McEntire's repertoire and could well become a charting hit itself. Kenny Rogers' "Sweet Music Man" is a pretty melody and arrangement, its lyrics about a singer-songwriter who's stayed in the game a little too long and become a little too cynical. It's a fitting end to the album, and though it would probably sound clichéd and maudlin coming from Rogers, McEntire pulls it off with a tender reading.

It's doubtful that Reba McEntire will be going away any time soon, whether country music continues to be popular of not. She was here before, she's here now, and she will be here tomorrow, count on it. Yes, she's a survivor and a part of the popular music landscape that just can't be ignored.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.